Wacker Drive

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Wacker Drive
Wacker Drive map.png
Former name(s) Market Street
Length 2.2 mi[1] (3.5 km)
South end

Upper Wacker: Franklin Street / Harrison Street intersection (360 west at 424 south)

Lower Wacker: Congress Parkway near Wells Street (220 west at 400 south)
East end US 41 (Lake Shore Drive) (340 north at 400 east)

Wacker Drive is a major street in Chicago, Illinois, United States, running along the south side of the main branch and the east side of the south branch of the Chicago River. The street is a multilevel street that runs from 340 north at 400 east to 200 north at 340 west and along 360 west from 188 north to 424 south in the Chicago street address system in the Loop community area of Chicago.[2] The vast majority of it is double-decked; the upper level intended for local traffic, and the lower level for through-traffic and trucks servicing buildings on the road (and originally a dock). It is sometimes cited as a precursor to the modern freeway, though when it was built the idea was that pleasure vehicles would use the upper level. It is the only street in the city that has addresses on all four cardinal directions.

The upper level is normally known as Upper Wacker Drive and the lower level is Lower Wacker Drive. A short part has a third level, sometimes called Lower Lower Wacker Drive.[3]

History[edit]

late night fireworks beyond a river at night
Skyward view from the foot of a skysraper that reads Willis Tower 233 South Wacker
Image of tall building with reflecting skyline
Image of tall building
Left: Navy Pier's fireworks over Lake Michigan beyond the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue and Link Bridges with East Wacker on right; Left center: Willis Tower at 233 South Wacker; Right center: 333 West Wacker sits at the junction of east-west and north-south traffic; Right: 360 North Michigan, Mather Tower and 35 East Wacker on East Wacker west of Michigan Avenue and the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

In 1909, architects Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett drew up a plan for the Commercial Club of Chicago to unify the city's urban design and increase its physical beautification. The improvement of traffic flow in Chicago was a major part of the plan. Among its many recommendations was a double-decked roadway along the river, intended to relieve the congestion at River Street and Rush Street, where 50% of the city's north–south traffic crossed the Chicago River. Charles H. Wacker, chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, pushed the idea.

Dusk image of river and tall buildings on either side
All three levels of Wacker Drive, east of Columbus Drive, including a ramp between the upper and lower (middle) levels
Dusk image of river and tall buildings on either side
Wacker Drive to the north of the Chicago River looking east

The original double-decker road, replacing South Water and River Streets, was completed in 1926 at a cost of $8 million and named after Charles Wacker. The 1926 section stretched from Lake Street to Michigan Avenue, the latter of which was also rebuilt into a two-level road.

An extension south to Congress Parkway and Harrison Street was built between 1948 and 1954, replacing Market Street (after the Market Stub of the elevated Lake Street Line was removed).[4] Extensions east were built in 1963 and 1975, with the latter taking it to Lake Shore Drive, and a new lower level starting at Stetson Avenue. At the time, Lake Shore Drive had an S-curve at the river, running where Wacker now does between Field Boulevard and current Lake Shore Drive. This S-curve was on a viaduct over the Illinois Central Railroad's rail yard, and was at the level of Upper Wacker; the middle and lower levels dead-ended at that point. The current alignment of Lake Shore Drive was finished in 1986, and in 1987 Middle Wacker was extended to meet the new alignment. The ramps to bring upper traffic down had already been built; upper has been dead-ended where it used to end at Lake Shore Drive.

Logo for the 2001-2002 project

In 2001-2002, Wacker Drive was redesigned and reconstructed between Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. The original upper deck was crumbling, and the entire roadway did not meet modern standards for road widths and clearances. Using a specially-developed "flat-slab, longitudinally post-tensioned, reinforced, high-performance concrete cast-in-place system," the new road deck was expected to have a lifespan of 75–100 years.[5] Walkways along the river were meant to make the drive more pedestrian-friendly, while restoration of historic limestone elements and reproduction lighting evoked the drive's original 1926 appearance. The 20-month, $200-million project was completed on time and within budget.[6]

In spring of 2010, work commenced on rebuilding the north-south section of Wacker, from Randolph Street to Congress Parkway, including the upper and lower levels. This is a continuation of the Revive Wacker Drive project started in 2001.

Wacker is the only street to cross both State Street (the east–west center line) and Madison Street (the north–south center line).

Intersections[edit]

The following streets intersect Wacker Drive, from south to north and west to east. Most upper-level streets that end at Wacker Drive, with only right turns allowed, are not included.

Popular media[edit]

Several films have used Wacker Drive as a setting. The 1980 film The Blues Brothers made a point of identifying the street. The climactic high-speed chase scene occurs along various downtown streets (filmed on Sundays with the downtown cordoned off). When the brothers take the Bluesmobile down the ramp to the express level, Elwood mentions the street by name: "Well, this is definitely Lower Wacker Drive. If my estimations are correct, we should be very close to The Honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza." Jake: "That's where they've got that Picasso." Elwood: "Yep."

The 1990 film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a scene where the title character and his friend Otis stop their car on Lower Wacker and flag down another vehicle on the pretext of having car trouble, and Otis kills the would-be Good Samaritan by shooting him.

Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) both have chase scenes filmed in Lower Wacker Drive.

In Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), Wacker Drive is seen in a number of scenes. Much of the street appears destroyed with debris from nearby buildings and destroyed cars because of the Decepticons assault on the city. Much of the battle takes place on Wacker Drive with the Autobots and United States Military fighting and eventually defeating the Decepticons.

In 2014 an episode of the television show, Chicago P.D., used lower Wacker Drive in a scene with a kidnapped boy on a bus.

Gallery[edit]

Two aerial views in 1926 
A side view, as seen from the Chicago River 
Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago 

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Google Maps estimate.
  2. ^ Hayner, Don and Tom McNamee, Streetwise Chicago, "Wacker Drive", p. 129., Loyola University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8294-0597-6
  3. ^ Brown, Mark. "Lower Wacker Homeless Coming to Uptown." Uptown Update. Web. Retrieved 7 Feb. 2012.
  4. ^ Garfield, Graham. "Market Terminal". Chicago-L.org. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  5. ^ "Chicago Works to Revive Wacker Drive". Construction Writers Association. 2001-10. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  6. ^ "Revive Wacker Drive project". 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°53′13″N 87°37′39″W / 41.88688°N 87.62738°W / 41.88688; -87.62738